Advice for Real Estate Businesses as
California Begins to Reopen Its Economy
Seven weeks after Governor Newsom issued the first statewide shelter-in-place order in the country, California has begun the process of moving forward into Stage 2 of its four-stage plan to gradually reopen the state by loosening restrictions on a limited number of lower risk businesses. The Governor announced that certain retail establishments, such as bookstores, clothing stores, florists, jewelry stores, furnishings stores, music stores, sporting goods stores and toy stores, may reopen for curbside pickup only as early as Friday, May 8, 2020. Supply chains supporting such businesses will also be permitted to resume operations. Assuming no significant surges in COVID-19 cases, Stage 2 will be gradually extended in phases to include additional businesses identified as lower risk, including office-based businesses, destination retail, schools, childcare facilities, outdoor museums and dine-in restaurants. Higher risk businesses will follow in subsequent stages.
Some counties, such as San Francisco, however, have announced that local businesses will not be permitted to open until a later date or will be subject to stricter requirements irrespective of the state requirements. But other counties may be permitted to move through Stage 2 faster if, among other things, they can demonstrate that they have had no more than one COVID-19 case per 10,000 and no COVID-19 related deaths in the prior 14 days, and they receive approval from the California Department of Public Health.
No matter when they are permitted to reopen, all businesses will be required to “make radical changes within the workplace” and adjust practices to limit the spread of COVID-19 and establish a safe, clean environment for workers and customers. As outlined on the “Resilience Roadmap” page of the California Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response Website, every business must do the following before reopening:
- Perform a detailed risk assessment and implement a site-specific protection plan
- Train employees on how to limit the spread of COVID-19, including how to screen themselves for symptoms and stay home if they have them
- Implement individual control measures and screenings
- Implement disinfecting protocols
- Implement physical distancing guidelines
In order to assist businesses with their reopening plans, the state has prepared industry specific guidance and checklists for a variety of sectors such as construction, hotels, life sciences, warehousing facilities, office-based businesses, real estate transactions, retail and many others. In addition, the state has invited members of the public to complete a survey if they want to provide input on the best way to reopen different sectors. The state website provides that “businesses may use effective alternative or innovative methods to build upon the guidance.”
Since reopening planning will undoubtedly take some time and resources, businesses are encouraged to start as soon as possible. As with most COVID-19 related policies, this is a novel process and new information is learned and adjustments are made regularly. Businesses should regularly check for updated information issued by state or local governments, as well as the CDC and public health authorities, as they move forward with their reopening planning.